Scottie Barnes Already Validating His Draft Selection and Emerging as the Toronto Raptors’ Next Great Star

The Toronto Raptors said goodbye to an all-time franchise icon in Kyle Lowry this past summer, but they might already have a replacement star in Scottie Barnes.

Toronto selected Barnes with the No. 4 overall pick in the 2021 NBA Draft. The former Florida State standout had been a pretty rapid riser in the months building up to the draft, and now Raptors fans are seeing why that was the case.

Barnes is not only helping to make the Raptors more competitive. He’s already following in the footsteps of Lowry and DeMar DeRozan as the next face of the franchise.

Scottie Barnes garnered a reputation as an elite defender and versatile playmaker ahead of the 2021 NBA Draft

Scottie Barnes wasn’t exactly the most prolific scorer during his time in Tallahassee. The former Seminole averaged 10.3 points in his freshman season and shot just 27.5% from beyond the arc. Still, his diverse skill set made him one of the most intriguing prospects in the 2021 draft.

Barnes is a 6-foot-9 forward with exceptional playmaking. He averaged 4.1 assists in his lone season at Florida State, the fifth-best mark in the ACC. The West Palm Beach native also leveraged his size to be a force on the glass, pulling down 4.0 rebounds per contest.

The size and length, paired with his ability to guard multiple positions, made Barnes an enticing talent ahead of the draft. Toronto already had Fred VanVleet in the backcourt and drafted Malachi Flynn in 2020, making wing depth more of a priority.

The Raptors took Barnes with the fourth pick, and he has rapidly set about to validating his draft selection and showcasing the skills that could make him a star in Toronto.

Barnes is impressing through his first few games

Scottie Barnes’ NBA debut did not go as planned, but his last two outings are an indicator of his star potential.

Barnes scored 12 points on just 5-of-13 shooting and had six turnovers in his first career game. But he responded brilliantly, scoring 25 points and pulling down 13 rebounds in a blowout win over the Boston Celtics. The 20-year-old had another solid showing on Saturday against the Dallas Mavericks, scoring 17 points and grabbing eight boards. Mavs head coach Jason Kidd lauded Barnes’ talent after the game, per USA TODAY.

“Scottie Barnes is a heck of a rookie. He’s a great player. … He is really, really good. He causes a problem on both ends of the floor and he knows how to play the game. He’s gonna be a star in this league, if he’s not already a star.”

–Jason Kidd, via USA TODAY

Barnes is showing an advanced sense of moving without the ball and hunting opportunities around the basket. What’s most impressive, though, is his effort on the offensive glass. The Raptors rookie is averaging over four offensive rebounds through the first three games, relentlessly pursuing the rock.

There are other reasons to be high on Barnes even this early in the season. While the perimeter game is far from explosive, he’s showing a comfort level in pulling up for mid-range jumpers and running the floor in transition. One such play against the Celtics saw him grab a defensive rebound and immediately go coast-to-coast for an easy layup.

Barnes has yet to even really make an impact as a secondary playmaker. He’s only averaging 1.7 assists through three games. Still, the totality of what he offers the Raptors is undeniable, and his propensity as a guy who can score, rebound, and facilitate hint at his star potential.

The Raptors could bounce back sooner than anticipated

Raptors rookie Scottie Barnes goes to the basket during a game against the Mavericks
Scottie Barnes dunks the ball during a game against the Dallas Mavericks at Scotiabank Arena on October 23, 2021, in Toronto, Canada | Cole Burston/Getty Images

Toronto missed the playoffs in 2020-21, and Lowry’s departure brought a feeling of transition to the franchise. However, if Barnes’ play is any indication, the Raptors could be right back in the playoff picture sooner than anticipated.

The Raptors have a strong backcourt in VanVleet and Gary Trent Jr., who can provide scoring off the bench with his ability to space the floor and gives Toronto added toughness on the defensive end. Goran Dragic might eventually play a more significant role, as well.

Barnes and OG Anunoby are two lengthy wings that disrupt everything on the defensive end. The frontcourt looks deeper, too, as head coach Nick Nurse can rely on Precious Achiuwa, Khem Birch, and Chris Boucher.

Toronto’s upside won’t be clearly defined until Pascal Siakam is back and healthy. Regardless of the team’s immediate ceiling, however, Scottie Barnes looks the part of a franchise cornerstone who can help the Raptors get back on track in a hurry.

Stats courtesy of CBB Reference and Basketball Reference.

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